Home 9 In the Spotlight 9 Amazon’s Book Publishing Juggernaut: Part 4- Catherine Ryan Hyde Takes Her Readers on Journeys Across the Globe and Inside the Lives of Ordinary People

Amazon’s Book Publishing Juggernaut: Part 4- Catherine Ryan Hyde Takes Her Readers on Journeys Across the Globe and Inside the Lives of Ordinary People

by | Jul 30, 2021 | 0 comments

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Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is a writer of great stature as well as incredible breadth of interest. Her novels and short stories have not only been read by millions – or seen by millions- more as they have been translated into successful films, such as Pay it Forward. This book, that became a popular Warner Brothers film, was based on a personal experience in which strangers happened upon her when her car stalled. They were able to get her on the road again before she was even able to thank them.  That sort of experience led her to introspection and a very popular and well-received book and film. But it didn’t stop there; she then founded and is past president of the Pay It Forward Foundation.

Catherine Ryan Hyde began her career writing short stories and went through a rather typical experience of having her early work rejected. “It might sound like dwelling on the negative if I say I received 122 short story rejections before my first acceptance. But, for writers just starting out, it’s important to hear. If you know I was rejected more than a thousand times while placing fifty stories, it might be hard for you to justify giving up after five printed slips.”

Hyde gets inspiration from seemingly everything around her.  She lives with a variety of animals – many rescued – on her ranch. She enjoys trekking vacations  to exotic locations such as the lower Himalayas of Nepal, Maine’s Mt. Katahdin and Yosemite’s “Cloud’s Rest (both farther and higher than Half Dome) and back. That’s about 22 miles and about 5,900 feet of gain, and it took me nearly thirteen hours.”

An avid traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she shares her adventures (including astrophotography) with readers on her website. Over fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and journals. In order to connect with readers, she maintains an incredibly detailed website

Known for her storytelling mastery, who better to tell her story than Hyde herself:

HYDE ON SURVIVING THE ‘BUMPY DECADES’ 

“Around 2009, when publishing was going through a huge contraction, there were no US publishers still willing to take me on. At the time I was doing well in the UK, and selling directly to Transworld UK (Random House), but my US readers couldn’t get the books unless they had them shipped over. In 2012, my agency and I decided to try a couple of indie US editions. Ebooks and self-publishing were the big, hot new thing. We offered one of my books, When I Found You, as a five-day free promotion. A number of wind directions aligned in the universe, and the ebook ended up in the top five in popularity, which wedged it like a meat filling into a Hunger Games sandwich.”

“What happened next is important. APub came to me. But probably not the way most people are picturing. I didn’t get a form email that said, “Dear Author, we noticed your book is popular.” An APub acquisitions editor, the now retired Terry Goodman, sent me a perfect, heartfelt email. He had clearly read the book. He told me what struck him most about it, what he admired about my style, and what authors it brought to mind. He expressed interest in adding an encore edition of it to APub’s schedule for 2013.”

“Time has passed, it’s 2021, and Lake Union Publishing and I have 20 books together, either published or forthcoming. But the values of Lake Union have not changed. If anything, I get happier working with them as time goes on.”   

“The differences between APub and old school NY publishing (I don’t want to say traditional, because people often don’t think Lake Union is a traditional publisher—it is) are almost too numerous to mention. They pay monthly. They offer a much more generous royalty on ebooks. They promote. They price my ebooks affordably enough that they move in big numbers, but because they offer higher royalties, both the reader and the author win. Probably more than anything else they were, and are, uniquely suited to match my books with their readership, a process that had not gone well over my previous nearly 20 years in the business.”

“And did I mention that they pay monthly? Right, I actually know I did. But since I had never convinced my creditors to bill me twice yearly, that felt big.”

“Before signing with APub I was lying awake at night worrying about how to pay the mortgage. A couple of years with them, and I didn’t have a mortgage, and still don’t. Yes, there’s some push-back in the industry. People occasionally act like you’re a traitor to literary culture by association. I reject that utterly. My books are getting to their readers, I can pay bills, and I know where my loyalties lie. Selling a lot of books does not make one a traitor in a business dedicated to selling a lot of books.”

“Others authors may have a different story to tell, but that’s my story.”

“And, by the way, that first novel with them, When I Found You? Just the APub edition, not counting sales before they took it on, not counting foreign language translations, has reached well over 750,000 readers. I hope those numbers speak to my satisfaction with my publisher.” 

FITTING INTO THE AMAZON PUBLISHING’S ECOSYSTEM

“My understanding is that one does approach Amazon Publishing through an agent. So that part of their model is not new. As to whether the APub model of doing business will become more common, one would certainly think so. But the industry is nothing if not entrenched in the past. I see a lot of effort to pull things back to the old way of doing business, because a lot of people are heavily invested in it. I doubt it will work in the long run, but it’s hard to predict the future of an industry so determined not to modernize.”

“I definitely have more input than I’ve ever had before. And I’ve published with Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Knopf. Although I had lovely editors at all those houses, Lake Union values its authors in a way I had not previously experienced. And of course that’s going to make an author happy.” 

Amazon.com sells quite a few books as well. I wish the brick and mortar stores were more open to carrying books by APub authors, but I can’t tell them what to do, nor would I try. Meanwhile I’m doing very well at that big online bookstore, so it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable problem, to phrase it mildly.”

DOES IT HURT AUTHORS AND READERS TO NOT BE ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERS LISTS?

Pay It Forward was the only one of mine that ever was. It was #20 on the NYT on the same week the movie premiered in theaters. At the same time it was #3 at Barnes & Noble nationally and #8 on the Publishers Weekly list. I’m making a point with those numbers that I hope will come through.”

“I think they wrote either one or two “In Brief” reviews for my books early on, and otherwise have not noticed me.”

“If we are being honest with ourselves and each other, the NYT slants to a certain type of fiction, and mine is not it. Meanwhile I’ve passed the 5 million mark across my Lake Union catalogue. So it’s not that your books won’t be bestsellers, but rather that the NYT will not recognize them. I guess authors have to decide how much that matters to them.”  

WHAT ABOUT CHARGES THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TOTAL CREATIVE CONTROL OVER YOUR WORKS? DO YOU SEE ANY OF THESE COMMON CRITICISMS OF APUB HAVING ANY INFLUENCE?

“I have never had more creative control. Ever. In my career. Ever.”

“I see them as an example of how calcified we’ve become in our thinking about books and publishing. We say “bookstores” without necessarily acknowledging other ways to sell books and “New York Times Bestseller List” without acknowledging other ways to measure sales and success. I think a large portion of the industry has changed its thinking, and another large portion can’t, or chooses not to.”

“I think we need to look at publishing in a new way and discuss it in more modern terms before the comparisons carry enough weight.”

“APub is a force to reckon with, which I guess ensures that there will be pushback.”

THE APUB MODEL AND THE FUTURE OF PUBLISHING

“I don’t think it’s really up to me to say what will be the future of publishing. But I will say I’m old enough to remember when “books on tape” were the latest thing. They were predicted to kill the book as we know it. The same dire predictions greeted ebooks when they arrived on the market. I’m not much for dire predictions. Clearly ebooks and audiobooks have taken their place alongside print as more ways to read, and more ways to read can only be good.”

“I think the APub model makes a great deal of sense and I’m sure the industry will continue to move in its direction. I have nothing but good things to say about my APub experience, but there’s room in publishing for all kinds of approaches. If people are buying and reading books, then the industry is healthy and well.”

NEW WAYS FOR AUTHORS TO CONNECT READERS TO IDEAS 

Catherine Ryan Hyde at her Cambria home. Photo by Joe Johnston 02-12-19

Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of the most prolific and best loved novelists of our age. Her interest in her readers and her characters have been appreciated by readers across the globe. “Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit,” writer Salman Rushdie has explained, “where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart.”

In a review of her book, My Name is Anton,  reviewer Namrata Ganti notes “Catherine Ryan Hyde’s books always have a theme and a message and they are delivered so beautifully, it is impossible to miss her books! I have read many books by her and I am left amazed every single time. Even though a lot of the themes focus on loss, life, unconditional love, memories, relationships, bonds and so many more, each book is different from the other.”

Clearly, APub is providing a new – and different – model of publishing that is appealing to both authors and readers. In the last part of this series on APub we talk with two more authors and consider how a clearly hungry audience has helped to create new options and methods for authors to reach new markets for their works and bring new perspectives and ideas to readers. 

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