Home 9 Full Text Articles 9 Amazon’s Book Publishing Juggernaut: Part 3- Perspectives From Award-Winning Writer Robert Dugoni

Amazon’s Book Publishing Juggernaut: Part 3- Perspectives From Award-Winning Writer Robert Dugoni

by | Jul 27, 2021 | 0 comments

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By: Nancy K. Herther, writer, consultant and former librarian with the University of Minnesota Libraries

Robert Dugoni

Another key novelist publishing with APub is Robert Dugoni, who has received critical acclaim in reviews from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other sources.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed Tracy Crosswhite series from Amazon, which has sold over six million books worldwide.  He is also the author of the David Sloane series; the Charles Jenkins series; the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, for which he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post best book of the year. 

He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Book Award for fiction and has twice won the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel. He is a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Awards and a finalist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Dugoni’s most recent book is the ninth in the Tracy Crosswhite series, In Her Tracks, which was released earlier this year. In September, he will publish The World Played Chess (Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing). He has been publishing with APub since 2014. 

NKH: What did you find attractive about Amazon as a book publisher? What made you feel this was a better choice – for you, your authors and your readers?

RD:  Multiple factors brought me to Amazon Publishing. In 2013, when I first met with Amazon Publishing about My Sister’s Grave I felt as though I was meeting with people, not a company. They made me feel welcome and they intimated that they would honor the integrity of my work. Second, they blew me away with their knowledge of both the industry and my own work. They were able to tell me who was reading my work, provide reader demographics, and put together a marketing plan on how they were going to capture those readers. It was, in some respects, like being recruited by a startup. 

The people I met were young, energetic, and hungry. They thought outside the box, weren’t afraid to try new things in marketing and publicity and knew the value of social media. They also said something to me that resonated and which I’ve taken to heart. They said, “The best thing an author can do to market himself is write the next great novel.” What they meant was focus on writing one great novel after the next, not on selling the novel. Let them do what they do best and you, the author, do what you do best. I left that meeting, called my agent, and said, “This is my home.” I firmly and correctly believed they would treat me with dignity and respect. And I have been focusing on making my novels as strong as I can ever since.

I really haven’t noticed criticism of my decision. I still sign at independent bookstores. Some choose not to invite me, but I understand and it’s okay. My reader base has expanded exponentially at Amazon Publishing in both numbers and demographics. I am read by men and women of all ages. It is really exciting.

NKH: I’d like to get your reaction to this quote is from Reedsy: “Authors who’ve written about their APub experiences suggests that authors’ input is requested throughout the publishing process.” Whether a new author or a well-published author, does this create a synergy that has worked well for you?

RD: It is very much a team concept. I work with my editors, Gracie Doyle at Thomas & Mercer and Danielle Marshall at Lake Union, on my story ideas before I begin and while in the creative process. We’ll talk through the idea and what could make the novel even better and help it reach a wider audience. Very early in the process we have a meeting with my agents and the Amazon marketing team. 

They go through all of their marketing ideas and provide me with details about what has been successful and why. They tell me about new approaches they want to take and what that will entail. When the book is published, I can get daily sales figures and demographics, so I know how the book is doing. The big thing, what I found to be a difference between Amazon and other publishers, is Amazon never stops promoting my work. 

They use my backlist to promote my new releases and then, when sales slow, they put my new releases in marketing packages to reach even more readers. The synergistic effect is felt in the continuous sales of my new releases by using the backlists, then using the new release to promote and sell the backlists to readers who didn’t start a series with the first novel.

NKH: One author told me getting published is always a challenge for 90% of authors and APub is unique, but already a strong force in a company that is leading the industry. Would you agree?

RD: There are some stores that won’t carry my novels. Some wait until readers ask for my novels then order them. That is disappointing, but again, I understand. I think the smarter tact some stores take is a sale is a sale. I get invited to a lot of really good bookstores and they sell a lot of my novels. My hometown bookstore in Kirkland, Book Tree, and The Poisoned Pen in Arizona are two stores that sell a lot of my novels.

Ironically, I was on the New York Times bestsellers list. When My Sister’s Grave came out in 2013, I was on the top ten list for three straight weeks and I still have those lists, but then the New York Times realized I was an Amazon author and retroactively removed me. 

I thought the experience was rather comical. Lists are fine, but real satisfaction comes from readers’ comments about how much they enjoy my work. I have never not had creative control. I have input in my novels’ titles, covers, back cover synopses, and just about everything else. I am intimately involved in the creative process. However, I believe it is important to let people do their jobs, and I’ve found that people at Amazon are really good at what they do.

NKH: Librarians have only recently been able to acquire APub titles, with the recent arrangement with the Digital Public Library of America to make these works available to at least American libraries. Do you see APub as another approach to publishing or more the future of publishing.

RD: I think publishing will continually take different forms as technologies develop, and libraries will always be a big part of that. I have been contacted by libraries in rural communities who have told me they get a lot of requests for my novels but either can’t get them or can’t get all of them. I’ve called Amazon and together we’ve worked to get my novels to those libraries.

The digitization of novels was coming. It was inevitable as computers, iPads, and cellphones became such a big part of our daily lives. The difficulty was making sure that authors, like all artists, were fairly compensated for their art.

In the next part of this series, we will talk with Catherine Ryan Hyde about her experience over the past decade as she navigated the “bumpy decades” during what she calls the “huge contraction.”

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